Discover The Exciting Capital Of Europe’s Poorest Country: Chisinau In Moldova
February 4, 2019
To many, Eastern Europe is still the wild East. While few dare to venture this fantastic area, Moldova is perfect for digital nomads and wine enthusiasts. Let’s discover Chisinau!
Chisinau is the sleepy capital of Moldova, which emerged as an independent republic in the early 1990s after the collapse of the USSR.
During the Soviet Regime, the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic transformed Chisinau (aka Kishinev) from a previously inconsequential Bessarabian city to a bureaucratic center full of administrative buildings.
Chisinau – An Eclectic Capital
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Chisinau, a city of about 660,000 inhabitants, feels rather desolate. The glory of the old days as a busy capital of a Soviet Republic are gone.
While Chisinau is no Paris or Amsterdam, it still makes an interesting and exotic capital.
One of the most interesting aspects about Chisinau is its social composition: a unique blend of Russians and Romanians living together under a new post-Soviet flag.
Chisinau is therefore an eclectic city that feels both Russian and Romanian. One will find die-hard Soviet patriots seating next to passport-holding-Romanians who want Moldova to join the European Union.
Architecture in Chisinau
The city boasts a few great sights for architecture nerds: socialist modernism abounds and the city hosts a good number of impressive concrete brutalist buildings.
The economical situation in Moldova caused that many of its most interesting historical buildings remain abandoned or badly damaged.
Socialist Modernism In Chisinau
Chisinau hosts some of the nicest socialist modernist buildings in the world, including the Hotel Cosmos, the Romanita collective housing project, the National Hotel, the National Circus, or the Memorial Park to the Soviet Great Patriotic War (WWII).
Language in Moldova: Romanian or Russian?
Moldovan people speak both Russian and Romanian, and indeed most of them speak both languages very well.
For example, the receptionist at the Hostel City Center spoke native Russian, Bulgarian, and Romanian, as well as very good English. Not bad!!
Learn Russian in Chisinau
For this reason, Moldova is a recommended place to learn Russian, as locals speak it fluently and one does not need a visa for stays up to 90 days.
Gagauz And Bulgarian Language in Moldova
Finally, some Moldovans mostly in the South also speak Bulgarian or Gagauz, a Turkik language. A truly multicultural country.
Wine in Moldova
Moldova is one of the world’s largest wine-producing countries, and probably the leading in terms of per capita production.
Most Moldovan wines are relatively average, yet one can find interesting wines at a very attractive price point. For example $10US is enough to sip a very good bottle.
The most famous wine-producing areas in Moldova are Nistreana and Codru.
Corruption in Moldova
Moldova is notoriously well-known as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe.
One of the major corruption scandals emerged in 2014 when a few fraudsters stole $1 billion USD from three banks.
Yes the bank fraud scandal amounted to over $1,000,000,000 USD, or approximately 12% of the country’s GDP.
As a consequence of the fraud, the EU, the IMF, and the World Bank froze their financial assistance to Moldova.
Chisinau city center is rather compact, and it is located about 45 minutes walk from the train station and North bus station.
- Train Station / Airport
- North Bus Station / South Bus Station
- Local Currency: Moldovan Leu (MDL)
- 1EUR = ~20 MDL
- 1USD = ~17 MDL
- Hostel dorm: 5-8 EUR
- Coffee-Beer price: 1-1.5 EUR
Best Hostel in Chisinau
Hostel City Center in Chisinau is a fantastic choice.
How To Get To Chisinau
Wizzair flies from Chisinau to 8 countries including flights to:
- Brussels Charleroi CRL
- Copenhagen CPH
- Paris Beauvais BVA
- Berlin Schoenefeld SXF
- Dortmund DTM
- Memmingen/Munich West FMM
- Athens ATH
- Bologna BLQ
- Milan Bergamo BGY
- Rome Ciampino CIA
- Venice Treviso TSF
- Barcelona El Prat BCN
- UNITED KINGDOM
- London Luton LTN
From Odessa (Ukraine)
- By Train: “Fast” trains on Fr, Sat, Sun at 18:45h from Odessa’s Central Station. 280UAH (~10USD). Note that the train passes through Transnistria and hence your Passport won’t be stamped on the Moldovan side.
- By Bus: ~hourly buses from Odessa’s central bus station 260UAH. They operate in Chisinau from the North Station.
From Kiev (Ukraine)
- By Train: daily trains from Kiev, reservation required
- By Bus: 2-5 daily buses from Kiev central bus station. In Chisinau they operate from the North Station.
From Bucharest (Romania)
- By Train: daily overnight trains from Bucharest’s Gare du Nord, buy the tickets at the international ticket counter at the station, behind the McDonalds
- By Bus: A few daily buses from Chisinau’s Southern central bus station
From Iasi (Romania)
- By Train: short distance can be covered on the train, but it’s not as fast at it seems, the train requires a change of wheels at Ungheni (Moldova)
- By Bus: Departing several times a day from the Southern Bus Station. Compared to the train, it’s usually faster to go by bus or marshrutka (small bus)
Tiraspol & Transnistria: The Soviet Enclave
Tiraspol is one of the weirdest cities in Europe.
Chisinau is an eccentric city where one can sense the deep Soviet and Russian influence on a historically Bessarabian-Romanian land.
While at first sight the level of corruption and poverty taint Moldova’s touristic appeal, there is plenty of great affordable wine and socialist modernist architecture to compensate.